Go with what will teach you the most

Illustration of the skate park

There is some great advice from Ryan Holiday in the 33 Things I Stole From People Smarter Than Me. I encourage a read through all of it. Here are a couple of pieces that pair well together and that resonate with me:

18.I forget who this was from, but it has stuck with me: Go to what will teach you the most, not what will pay the most. It’s about choosing opportunities that you’ll learn the most from. That’s the rubric. That’s how you get better. People sometimes try to sweeten speaking offers by mentioning how glamorous the location is or how much fun it will be. I’d be more impressed if they told me I was going to have a conversation that was going to blow my mind.

It look me a long time to really understand the simple truth that if you are not really interested in something and learning from it, you will never be happy doing it long-term, nevermind excel in it. This applies to jobs, hobbies, and relationships. There are a lot of things that think, “gosh, it would be so cool if I was good at that/did that/explored that!”. The experimental mindset says we should try all these things to see. That’s fine, as long as you can drop most of them once you test your interest. Easier said than done.

As one of my co-workers said about another colleague who was having performance issues in a new job, “He took a job he didn’t care about, and then he didn’t care about it.” Don’t not care. Remember, big rocks first.

10.Another thing about being a writer: I once read a letter in which the author Cheryl Strayed kindly pointed out to a young writer the distinction between writing and publishing. Her implication was that we focus too much on the latter and not enough on the former. It’s true for most things. Amateurs focus on outcomes more than process. The more professional you become, the less you care about results — you still get results, but that’s because you know you can rely on the systems and the process.

Focusing on your process over your outcomes is something that goes hand-in-hand with learning, and is another thing that’s hard to really understand and be comfortable with over the long haul. Resist the urge to compare yourself to others. Do stuff that you would do if no one is looking. If you aren’t interested in the process, that’s a good sign you aren’t truly interested in the domain you are working in. That’s ok! Look around for something that you want to do, even if you would be starting from scratch, or that’s been so long you would have to be a beginner again.

Creativity is not a talent, it’s a way of operating.

John Cleese

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